Activities For Small Dogs That Like Water

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Introduction

Many people associate water-loving dogs with specific breeds such as Standard Poodles, Retrievers, Portuguese Water Dogs, and other large breeds, as nature has equipped them with the tools, drive, and muscle to make a splash. But many small dogs have a love for water too, including Schipperkes and smaller Spaniels, as well as numerous other other breeds and individuals that, due to experience or curiosity, have learned to love their more aquatic sides. While their size may limit them from being dock jumping champions or effective with a towline, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of great water-based activities they can participate in that will bring them nearly as close to water as they are to you.

Canoeing

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Sunny Day
Moderate
Normal
15 - 60 Minutes
Items needed
Canoe or Kayak
Body of water
Treats
Paddles
Activity description
While many larger dogs can be quick to jump in and swim in nearly any body of water, confidence and interest willing, smaller dogs don't usually possess the muscle or endurance for long bouts of swimming. But just because they can't doggy-paddle for hours on end, doesn't mean they can't find adventure in a more comfortable setting. Canoeing fits this need in great capacity for several reasons. First, small dogs have a far lower chance of tipping and flipping the boat (although if it's big enough, most larger canoes can handle even the biggest dogs). Second, they still get the joy of new surroundings with minimal effort, all while working on their balance, comfort, and confidence. It is ideal for nicer days for obvious reasons, but is also relatively cheap (depending on if you own or rent), not exceptionally hard to do for you or them, and can last for as long or short as you want it to. Plus, it can help you find new shallows for them to swim or splash in!
Step
1
Get them acclimated
When it comes to surfaces to stand, sit, or even just be on, many dogs have a list of reservations topped by three things: the slickness of material, the sturdiness, and their owner's proximity. Generally speaking, canoeing and kayaking only provides the latter, you, while the other two are a bit iffy. That's why step one is getting them adjusted. Start by having the selected boat on a level surface, get in yourself, then invite them in and see how they do (you may have to lift them if they're too small to jump over). Let them explore and get comfortable, using treats as motivation if necessary. Once you've discovered where they're most comfortable, either on a seat, on the floor, or on your lap, start to practice the paddling motion to see how they do, then try lightly rocking the boat to test their comfort. If they do well, move onto step two. If not, try praise, petting, and treats to get them settled.
Step
2
Test the waters
Once they're okay with the craft, try pushing it out into the shallows, making sure to watch their reactions as you do so. If their instinct is to jump in the water, try getting the boat into the water first, then placing them in it or holding them while climbing in to minimize movement. Paddle around in the shallows to see how they do, continuing with the treats and praise to make good associations if they show any reservations. Test the waters more by going through a few full repetitions of paddling, as well as rocking the boat to see if they're able to handle the motion and new stimulus. Once they're comfortable in their new waterborne vehicle, move onto step three.
Step
3
Paddle out!
This is the fun part! Now you can paddle out into the body of water in search of new places to explore on foot or by swimming or new things to see from the comfort of your kayak or canoe. Once your dog sees that they are safe and sound and get to explore new places, even from their seat, many stay gleefully entertained. If they get impatient or nervous, find a new spot to take them out and explore more on land, on the shore, or in the shallows, sprinkling in the canoeing or kayaking until they develop a little more patience and comfort.
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Rafting

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Sunny Day
Moderate
Normal
5 - 45 Minutes
Items needed
Pool
Low-profile foam raft
Activity description
Not everyone has easy access to natural bodies of water, leaving pools to be the next best thing. But while larger dogs have the muscle and size to easily climb in and out of the pool at will, smaller dogs sometimes face pools with edges too tall to climb out of or without stairs, aka easy access. To combat this, there's one simple solution: a low-profile foam floating raft. It will allow them to swim to all parts of the pool easily, and climb out when they get tired or just want to lounge. In fact, they don't have to swim at all to stay close to you or interact with you in the new setting - they can just float. By contrast, inflatable rafts not only generally have taller sides, but also run the risk of being punctured. Foam rafts, on the other hand, need little thickness to float, making them easy to climb on, and only suffer minimal nail damage, and even when they do, won't sink because of it. Plus, foam rafts are just as moderately-priced, accessible for most small dogs, gives them the choice to float, swim, or both, and can be done for any length of time.
Step
1
Call the skipper
Like in the canoeing and kayaking example, surface and stability are key to a dog's comfort. Given that foam is easy to walk on, especially with their nails, and provides decent grip, they will likely have little aversion to standing, sitting, or laying on them (after all, they're only a little squishier than most dog beds!). Foam rafts do tend to flex, so their stability isn't perfect, but they also rarely flip without considerable weight, which shouldn't be an issue for your small dog. Whatever the case, try to get them on the raft on dry land first, as an effort to isolate potential points of reservation, using treats and praise as needed to get them on it and comfortable.
Step
2
Make them captain
Now it's time to get them waterborne! Depending on their comfort, experience and personality, either put the raft in the water and lift them onto it, or lift them and the raft into the water as one. Make sure to stay close by with words of encouragement, stabilizing the raft and preventing it from moving too much while they get used to it being in the water. It may take a few attempts and treats to get them comfortable, but if the raft is stable enough, most don't seem to mind, as long as you are nearby.
Step
3
Tail and set sail!
Once they're comfortable with you as a stabilizer, gently let the raft go so that they are floating on their own. If they like the water enough, they may eventually jump in, at which point you can show them how to get back on the raft with a helping hand, or see if they can manage it on their own. Once most realize they have their own personal dock, they'll probably swim or soak in the sun to their little hearts' desire. If not, you may have to repeat a few steps to get them comfortable. But once they do, you'll have one more activity to help both of you keep cool, get exercise, and have fun!
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Kiddie Pool

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Sunny Day
Cheap
Easy
5 - 45 Minutes
Items needed
Hose
Kiddie pool
Shovel (if no kiddie pool)
Plastic or tarp (if no kiddie pool)
Activity description
Not all dogs are cut out for swimming. In fact, some will never venture close enough or deep enough to justify a doggy-paddle. But that doesn't mean they can't enjoy water altogether, which is where the kiddie pool (or makeshift kiddie pool) comes in. Most kiddie pools are relatively cheap, you can easily fill and empty them to a depth comfortable for your dog, they're easy to get in and out of, you can spend minutes or hours playing in them and better yet, they're durable and reusable. And if you don't own one or can't easily buy one, you can always make one with some basic materials.
Step
1
Make or fill the pool
If you have a kiddie pool, turn on that hose and start filling! You can always have your dog jump in during the process too, which may help you gauge their comfort in terms of depth. If you don't have one, you can either dig a hole in the yard and toss some plastic in to hold the water (always make sure to check with landlords, parents, and significant others) or if you want to be less destructive, stack bricks, branches, or cinder blocks in a circle to an appropriate height, throw a tarp over it, press the middle in and fill it up.
Step
2
Splish and splash
Step two: have fun! You may have to introduce your dog more slowly by putting them in with a low water line, but if they're truly water-loving dogs, they'll have little problem jumping in and getting wet on their own. There's plenty to do once they're in, such as splashing about with them, shooting them with water guns, playing with dog toys in the water, and even just lounging about to cool off.
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More Fun Ideas...

Bath Time

Not all dogs need space to be able to play in the water, some of them just love bath time! If it's a hot day, they need a good cleaning, or they just look bored and like baths, fire up the tub and soak them down!

Sprinkler Shower

If you don't have the materials for a kiddie pool or your dog just isn't a big fan of bigger pools of water, getting a sprinkler attachment for your hose may be cheaper (if you don't already have one) and just as fun. Just hook it up to the hose, turn it on, and watch them run through, run from, chase, and bite the water.

Conclusion

Just because smaller dogs don't have the size and endurance to hang with their larger kin in the water, they can still have big fun in numerous ways. But these are just a few suggestions we came up with. If you know how to have fun in the water yourself, whether it's in the expanse of the ocean or a puddle in the back yard, chances are your little water-loving companion will be just as gung-ho to splash about as you are.